I asked Kerry the following: “Do you believe God chooses his nature?”
Kerry replied: “Yes I do, as a nod to Anselm’s definition. Something else determining it would be God.”
This surprised me. It certainly isn’t a nod to Anselm, though I suspect William of Ockham presently has a twinkle in his eye.
Here’s the basic problem. A nature is commonly (and very plausibly) defined as a kind-essence. That is, it is the set of properties an entity exemplifies which make that entity one kind of thing rather than another. A human being is human in virtue of exemplifying the kind-essence set of properties which are essential to being human. God is divine in virtue of exemplifying the kind-essence set of properties which are essential to being God.
Kerry said that God chooses his nature.
That thus entails, at first blush, that God chooses to be divine such that he could have willed to be something other than divine.
(I’m assuming that “God chose A” entails a possible world where “God chose not-A”. If it doesn’t and Kerry believes that God chooses the same nature in every possible world then I have to wonder why we’re even talking about God choosing anything.)
I take it that this is a deal breaker for most if not all Christian theists, kind of like shouting “Long Live the NRA*!” at the Democratic National Convention, or bringing a beef burgers and a performing elephant to the PETA* staff picnic.
There is another option, but it ain’t pretty. Kerry could argue that our intuitions about the divine nature are radically wrong. The set of kind-essential properties that constitute the divine nature do not include things we thought like omnipotence, omniscience and (I say) omnibenevolence. So what is a divine nature? Perhaps it is, paradoxically, nothing more than to be able to choose your own nature. (Huh? Self-referential defeat anyone? *cough* *cough*.) Okay, let’s revise that. Perhaps the divine nature consists of the essential attribute of being able to choose all your other attributes.
Now admittedly this makes Kerry’s claim that God chooses his nature come up false. But perhaps we could take the statement that he chooses his nature as a sort of facon de parler. Maybe being God means you essentially exemplify one property: the ability to choose all the other properties you’ll exemplify.
Okay, that won’t quite work because to choose the other properties you’ll exemplify you also minimally have to be a free agent. So presumably the nature includes at least that as well.
Perhaps then to be God is to be a free agent who freely chooses all his other attributes.
In that case I hope he chose wisely. If he did choose wisely, it was only because he chose to be wise.
I’m getting a headache.
*National Rifle Association
*People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals